Billionaire hedge-fund manager Dan Loeb calls himself an “activist investor,” but even in the rough-and-tumble financial world, his tactics—nasty, personal attacks on C.E.O.’s and colleagues—are considered extreme. After nearly losing his Third Point fund, in 2008, Loeb has come roaring back, hunting such big game as Yahoo, Sony, Morgan Stanley, and Sotheby’s. From Wall Street to Hollywood, everyone is crying foul, but as William D. Cohan reports, Loeb’s ultimate weapon may be that he doesn’t give a damn.
Once again, in October, Dan Loeb was lobbing grenades. This time his target was Sotheby’s, the international auction house, founded in 1744, that, along with chief rival Christie’s, owns the high-end business of reselling the art, real estate, jewelry, furniture, and other knickknacks of the wealthy. Loeb, the 51-year-old founder and principal owner of the hedge fund Third Point L.L.C., is famous, or rather infamous, for such bomb throwing. Packaging them in the form of letters to corporate C.E.O.’s (and sometimes to his hedge-fund colleagues), Loeb excoriates his targets publicly, not only for their professional performance but also often for their personal behavior. The idea is to humiliate the C.E.O.’s, causing them to quit or to get fired, so Loeb can unleash his strategies for “unlocking shareholder value,” as they say in the hedge-fund world. Other hedge-funders send such letters, but most agree that Loeb’s are the nastiest and most florid. Continue Reading »